I can’t impress upon you enough the importance of investing in decent WordPress hosting.
When you’ve invested a lot of time and effort into a WordPress site, there is nothing worse than hosting it on some budget platform.
Awesome hosting is crucial to the success of your site. I must have looked at 100s of WordPress sites where clients are telling me that there is something wrong with it, only to find it’s actually the hosting that’s at fault.
There are several things you need to consider when choosing a company to host your WordPress site, but the key thing to remember is that you get what you pay for.
1. How good is the hosting company support?
I’m a WordPress expert but hosting is a completely different skillset.
Knowledgeable, experienced and technically proficient support staff should be the number one consideration when looking for WordPress hosting.
Over the years I have worked with a wide range of hosting companies and it’s more often the quality of the support that differentiates them.
Some of the support ‘experts’ I’ve dealt with like to make everything the fault of your developer.
- If the sites down, it’s something to do with the theme.
- If it’s slow to load, it’s something to do with the plugins.
- If you are experiencing 503 errors, it’s a combination of both of the above.
I would be willing to put money on the fact that some hosting companies make this their default response to any support enquiry.
Push it back on the developers as it makes it someone else’s issue.
What you need is chat-based support where an experienced expert is on the other end of the conversation, and this does come at a premium.
2. You need fast Nameservers.
When someone types in your domain name, your nameservers ‘translate’ this into a numerical address, the IP address, of where your website lives.
If your domain name servers are slow, there’s going to be another wait before the visitor gets to see your website.
Your nameservers can often be managed by the company that is hosting your site or they can be managed by an awesome service like Cloudflare (I use this for all my DNS).
Whatever you choose, you need to make sure DNS lookups are FAST. Otherwise, you’re slowing down your site before anyone even sees it.
3. Time to the first byte is important.
This is basically how long it takes your server to deliver the first byte of data to the browser.
There are a lot of things that can affect this, but it can be a good indicator of how good your server is.
If your server takes two seconds to serve up the first byte to the visitors’ browser, then that’s two seconds they’ll have to wait before the browser can render the site.
Given that data shows anything over three seconds and your into the territory of visitors leaving your site, the ‘time to first byte’ is quite important.
4. Servers & Datacentres make a difference.
Where your site is physically hosted makes a huge difference to the performance of your site.
Your hosting company may have a UK phone number, but your website could be hosted anywhere on the planet.
The further your server is from your visitor, the slower the connection may be. This is called latency and it basically is the amount of time a packet of data takes to get from one place to another.
The further this data has to travel, the slower your site.
5. Shared versus dedicated hosting and how they affect your site.
Shared hosting is where your site sits on a server with other websites, dedicated is where your site sits on its own servers.
There are, however, variations on the above.
Shared hosting is generally cheaper, but you have no control over how many, or more importantly who, you are sharing the server with.
Shared hosting can lead to ‘bad neighbour’ issues, where other sites on your server use too much of the server resource – this, in turn, leads to all the other sites running slowly.
Shared hosting also means that your WordPress developers may not have the control that they need to customise things on the server.
Access is usually more restricted and you’re at the mercy of the hosting company support to sort things out.
Dedicated WordPress hosting.
This is basically where you have your own server. There are no other sites on it and your site has access to all the resource and storage.
This avoids the bad neighbour issue but throws up other problems.
Be careful if you are considering opting or a VPS (Virtual Private Server). These are often unmanaged, so unless you are experienced in updating Apache, Plesk and other server-side stuff, I would recommend avoiding these.
People often go for a VPS as they are still relatively cheap but promise quite a lot.
In reality, I’ve found most hosting companies pretty unhelpful when requesting support for VPS’s – the terms and conditions of the accounts usually state that you are on your own when it comes to solving problems.
Variations on the above.
There are now loads of other options for hosting – cloud-based, AWS, Azure (avoid this like the plague) and a range of other services, making the decision about who to host with even harder.
What I use.
I host the vast majority of sites I look after with two hosting companies, WP Engine and Flywheel.
Both are US operations but have office and data centres in London.
The first thing I would say about these two is that the level of support they give their agency partners is superb. The second is the range of services they offer including backups, staging sites, security, SSL certificates and control over the servers.
The servers I have with these companies only host sites I look after.
To give you some idea of why I (and my businesses) invest in hosting, our combined hosting bill per annum comes in at around £20,000 – I opt for premium and it comes at a cost, but it has a beneficial and measurable effect on the sites I manage.
So what should you spend on hosting?
Very simply, you get what you pay for with WordPress hosting.
While it can be tempting to go for something that costs a few pounds per month, I would not recommend it.
One thing I always say to clients is that you should be paying somewhere in the region of what your mobile phone contract costs.
Typically, we pay £30-£40 per month for a mobile contract. Your phone keeps you connected and ensures you are always reachable.
Given that your website does pretty much the same thing, but is also the window into your company for so many potential new customers, why would you spend any less?
I would advise budgeting at least £300 per year for hosting your site (and that’s just your site, not your email too).
Far too often with cheaper hosting accounts, when you need support, you’ll find that they simply push-back any problems on you.
So unless you are experienced in fixing PHP errors, tweaking php.ini files or debugging plugin conflicts, I would recommend hosting your website with your agencies hosting company and letting them manage everything for you.
Not sure what is actually going on with your hosting? You’re not alone – I speak to lots of people who simply just don’t know how things are set up.